Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by
baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the
glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. So you also
must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:3-4, 11
“He’s trying to find himself.” That’s what we used to say of someone when he dropped out of school, hitchhiked across the country, or went off to India. “He’s trying to find himself, to find out who he really is.” Identity issues can be challenging and can last a lifetime. Senior citizens struggle with questions of their identity as much as fledgling adolescents. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life, or the rest of my life?
It’s a perennial question that can keep coming up. Am I who other people think I am? Am I who I think I am? Or, am I who I think other people think I am? Such questions tend to resurface in times of crisis, such as the breakup of a relationship, retirement, loss of income, loss of health, or even conversion. We want to know who we really are.
In today’s scripture the apostle Paul is taking up the question of identity and who we really are. He addresses the identity question by writing about baptism. Paul says that our true identity is bound up in being baptized into Christ in His death and in His resurrection.
The word “baptism” transliterates the ancient Greek word bapto, a word originally without any religious connotation. Look up the word bapto in any Greek lexicon and you will discover that it has two basic meanings in the ancient world: 1) to dip; 2) to dye. (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer)
Bapto was a word an ancient fuller, one who works with cloth, used for taking a piece of cloth and dipping it into a vat of dye. When the cloth was brought up out of the dye it had a new appearance, a new identity. It was said that the cloth had been “baptized”. As believers in Christ we are baptized into His death and His resurrection to new life. We are new people with a new identity!
All the shame, guilt, and stain of our lives were nailed to the cross on Good Friday, so that on Easter morning we were raised to new life in Christ. We are now, as Paul writes, “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” While our bodies await the resurrection on the last day, we are already raised spiritually to God’s own dimension of life. Christ is our life. Or as Paul is so fond of saying, we are “in Christ”. That is who we really are. That is our true identity in Christ. We need search no longer to find ourselves.
Remarkably, today’s text contains the first imperative in the book of Romans. Paul has gone on for six and a half chapters declaring what God has done for us. It is only when he gets to Romans 6:11 that Paul calls for us to do something. And what is it? He calls us to acknowledge what God has done and to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In other words, he calls us to keep thinking and acknowledging what is true: that God has identified with Jesus in His death to sin and new resurrection life. He does not call us to feel our identification with Christ, but to acknowledge it.
We are not what other people think of us or what we feel about ourselves, but we are what the King of Heaven and Earth thinks of us and declares us to be! We might struggle this side of heaven, but what God says of us is as true of us as it is Jesus Christ. We are baptized into Him with our identity in Him. That holds exciting prospects for today and everyday! We have found ourselves!
Here are a couple of scripture texts that might help you to consider and acknowledge our identity in Christ:
- Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
- I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:19b-20a)
- So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
You might find it helpful to read and re-read the verses, reflect on them and talk to God about them. They are the real you!
Happy Easter and a happy identity!